ORDINARILY, the internal squabble and schism in the PNC faction of the APNU+AFC Coalition as to who should be the Leader of the Opposition, notably, the choice between Aubrey Norton and Joseph Harmon, should have been welcome. The ordinary person would have appreciated the long-waited procedural approach and sentiments to choose the Leader of the Opposition. However, the reality on the ground does not seem to support such assertion as attitudes of rootedness have joined the bandwagon of past PNC politics when appointments were entitled positions not easily replaced or removed. This is hydra-headed politics.
The determination of the newly-elected PNC leader, Aubrey Norton, to be also the Leader of the Opposition, and Joseph Harmon’s reluctance to give it up, on whatever grounds, show a befuddling non-appreciation of honouring the succession of leadership, a throwback to the Forbes Burnham years and beyond. This saga has plumbed the embattled PNC party in new depths of disappointment, marred by a high voltage of intolerance towards the fluid transfer of power, and disillusioned and disarrayed by the failed attempts to rig the March 2, 2020, general election, as well as the subsequent removal from office. Sigh!
In one fell swoop, this writer believes that the Leader of the Opposition should be Aubrey Norton. This is not to say that one is better than the other. They are chips off the same block. In the absence of transparency, and to avoid aspersions, one is forced to make a decision based on the scintilla of evidence. Harmon must leave this post, by first, declaring to the public that he would do so honourably, and second, following the necessary protocols, if so needed. If the aforesaid did not materialise, then a No-Confidence Motion should be tabled on Harmon. This move is required insofar as protecting the nation from stress, and more importantly, securing the modest “democratic” gains the PNC has made in the past years as well as to assuage fears that opposition will not slide into embarrassing public mayhem.
For its part, the beleaguered AFC partner in the Coalition had initially maintained an undignified silence on the schisms, and later, the leader Khemraj Ramjattan, “sided” with Joseph Harmon to remain as opposition leader. Ramjattan was bullish in the fulsome defense of Harmon in another section of the media. He stated “when you have legislative posts, you follow processes in accordance with the law. So not because the PNC Leader feels he should be Opposition Leader, Joe must leave. Joe has been appointed for five years and until such time he resigns or there is a No-Confidence Motion against him by the APNU+AFC party block, he ought to serve.”
Ramjattan’s declaration has failed to remove the apron string from the political impasse, and indeed, his indecorous approach brought about much criticism from his own rank and file for a more precise position on what he meant who should be the Leader of the Opposition. I would have liked to leave this one for the comedians. However, Ramjattan’s ramblings confirm that the right hand in the Coalition does not only know where the left hand is, but also if the left hand actually exists. This pattern is a carryover from when the Coalition was in power.
What has emerged from the conflicting and overlapping dynamics in the Coalition is suggestive of the true nature of political hardliners, individuals who are fixed by a set of ideas, that are often stoic, and refuse to accept any change that would challenge them. Does this sound familiar? Joseph Harmon, given his years in the military, in the opposition, and a short stint in the leadership of Guyana, has exposed his core political values as suspect regarding his refusal to give up the head post of the Opposition. Observers have drawn a correlation between Harmon and David Granger, the latter an admirer of Forbes Burnham, a confirmed despot. To prove them wrong now is the time for Harmon to tighten up and exit the leadership position of the opposition gracefully, avoiding disrepute. This move, in the tandem with the thought that the position is more important than the holder of the position, far outweighs any other considerations, including personal ambitions.
Similarly, it is not axiomatic for Aubrey Norton to accept the leadership of the PNC and the Opposition without addressing his past political stance. One characteristic that has repeatedly waxed lyrical is his inclination to street politics of mobilisation. Recently, he came up short in accepting what he and the Coalition call an installed PPP government. This will be a challenging area for him, and he must take the necessary steps to correct these statements and perceptions because, if let alone, will be risking public trust and confidence –outside his support base – which are vital ingredients for sustainability.
The imbroglio in the PNC, and by extension, the coalition, is worrisome. The longer the PNC takes to resolve its internal conundrum, the more it will play to the gallery of putting itself outside the limelight of politics. The public understands that the opposition does not choose to be in opposition but in the same vein will like to see a well-organized political party with a sound vision that will not take to streets when things do not go its way, cry foul when losing an election, and blame everything else for its problems. Put differently, we will not like to see the main opposition party descend into chaos (firstname.lastname@example.org).